Back in the early 00’s, Pain of Salvation was seen as a contender to Dream Theater’s progressive metal throne. Concept album after concept album that could humanize even the coldest, most mechanical of topics (One Hour by the Concrete Lake and also BE), less preoccupation with technical prowess and more of a focus on folk elements and songwriting. This seemingly unstoppable momentum was stalled severely with their lackluster 2007 effort Scarsick, and the band continued to slip further and further away from their own identity with the Road Salt Sequence which saw them drop the metal part of their genre association to act like your regular stoner / heavy / psych rock outfit for the most part. The band almost met its untimely end last year, when Daniel Gildenlöw (basically the core of PoS) fell near-fatally ill and was hospitalized for months, and emerged from the ordeal intact and ready to go.
More accurately, he emerged with this album in his heart. In the Passing Light of Day is decidedly autobiographical and prone to the poetic, yet simple-worded, striking self-reflection and exposition that Daniel Gildenlöw is more than capable. Prevalent throughout the album is the mood of a hospital garden, the scent of fresh grass and the scent of moisture in the air, even the hardest tunes carrying something for your other senses.
The album isn’t immersive, not exactly, but it does take the listener and confine its overall air into singular spaces. Going hand-in-hand with this, the arrangements favor, more often than not, slightly off-kilter, dissonant patterns, moving songs together with disharmony more often than harmony. The riffs are somewhat contrasting: on one hand, you have almost one-note simplicity relying on odd time signatures to feed it (Angel of Broken Things), and then you have the almost djent-like, sharply-edged, angular riffs that you hear in Reasons. On that note, rather than to rely on the progressive metal-like landscape of songs constantly shifting and changing, In the Passing Light of Day relies on repetition and more tightly structured songs, and even those with multiple movements are tightly-wound. This is an advantage, especially since the album’s focus is its primary strength.
One thing of note here is Daniel Gildenlöw’s aforementioned lyricism, which, when combined with his often-crooning, emotional vocals, delivers quite a punch. Dealing with the theme of sickness (physical and otherwise), anguish, his experiences in the hospital and dealing with being kept on the edge of consciousness, the album delivers massive blows to the emotional well-being of the listener. This has always been a separate aspect of Pain of Salvation that put the band ahead of their peers: the ability of Gildenlöw to write profound, simple-yet-deadly lyrics, which is very much present here and is a high point for the album.
In the Passing Light of Day is an album where its peculiar, unique production style goes hand-in-hand with its sheer emotional yield. The arrangement of the stereo space into the presence of the instruments fills the empty room with the harmony and disharmony of the instruments. You hear everything, and the drums easily stand out as being the most organic – you can practically smell the type of wood the sticks are made of just by its sound. This isolationist approach, focus on one element, pervades the rest of the album, instrumentally speaking by a strangely uniform focus approach on the instruments. The focus shifts between the angular, almost djent-like, oddly-timed riffing, and then takes the focus away from this by bringing everything together to build mood, and then, if the road permits it, strips away every element but one (keyboards in the mid-section of Full Throttle Tribe.)
If a final judgment would have to be passed, In the Passing Light of Day could be regarded a very good album; complex, emotional, with real depth because of its honesty. It has one major, very real downside, and it is that it’s not very suitable for daily consumption, because despite the rather simple way with which the songs go at it, most of it can fly over your head if you’re not paying attention. Otherwise, while not quite the comeback some expected, In the Passing Light of Day is a solid album, and a brand new day for Pain of Salvation. What comes after is crucial, but for now, one can enjoy the soundtrack to Gildenlöw’s near-demise just as well.
Daniel Gildenlöw – lead vocals, lead guitar
Ragnar Zolberg – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Gustaf Hielm – bass, backing vocals
Daniel Karlsson – keyboards, backing vocals
Léo Margarit – drums, backing vocals
01. On a Tuesday
02. Tongue of God
04. Silent Gold
05. Full Throttle Tribe
07. Angels of Broken Things
08. The Taming of a Beast
09. If This is the End
10. The Passing Light of Day